Words: Alex Birch; Pictures: Stefan Willoughby
The Magpies held their nerve to secure a place in the National League North playoff final with a spirited fightback against a stubborn Altrincham at Victory Park.
Chorley made three changes from their final league game of the season against Bradford (Park Avenue); Matt Challoner, Andy Teague & Josh Wilson all returned to the starting XI.
Visitors Altrincham were unchanged from their midweek penalty success over Blyth Spartans in the Vanarama Eliminator match.
Chorley: Urwin; Challoner (O’Keefe, 80′), Blakeman, Teague (c), Leather, Meppen-Walter, A.Newby, Cottrell, Carver (Tuton, 109′), Wilson, E.Newby (Almond, 75′). Subs not used: Jordan, Anson.
Altrincham: Thompson; Densmore, Hampson, Jones, Hannigan, Moult (c), Johnston (Harrison, 75′), Williams (Richman, 66′), Hulme (Poole, 54′), Hancock, Ceesay (Harrop, 95′). Subs not used: Wynne.
Altrincham pushed forward early on looking for a quick goal, but there were no quality chances forthcoming. It took the game a while to properly warm up, and it took a stricken Jordan Hulme raising to his feet and bumping into Marcus Carver to liven up proceedings. After that mini altercation both sides began attacking with a bit more intent.
Alty’s top scorer wasted the best chance of the half when he blazed over from 10 yards after John Johnston & Hulme linked up well to lay on the opportunity.
At the other end Alex Newby volleyed over from outside the box and Courtney Meppen-Walter saw a knockdown well held by Tony Thompson with Carver lurking for any rebound.
The second half was an emotional rollercoaster. Chorley started much the better and hit the post soon after the restart through Elliot Newby. Chances didn’t really continue in the same vein, although sides pushed on looking for a goal to break the tie open.
That eventually came to the visitors with 23 minutes remaining. Top scorer Hancock beat the offside trap to coolly slot the ball past the onrushing Matt Urwin, much to the delight of the away bench.
A turning point of sorts, but not as big another incident involving Hancock five minutes later. Carver was fouled by one Altrincham defender only for Hancock to jump in as well, two-footed, into the Chorley forward. Referee Elliott Swallow dished out the obligatory red card and suddenly the game was very much in the balance.
On came Louis Almond and Josh O’Keefe to freshen up the home side, and within 10 minutes Victory Park was rocking again when Adam Blakeman’s long throw was brilliantly nodded down by Andy Teague for Josh Wilson to stud the ball over the line from a yard out.
With Altrincham now without their three main attacking threats they retreated to their own half, and for the remainder of normal time and extra time defender very well to keep out the constant Magpie threat. The Robins had already won on penalties once this week, so why not again? They just hadn’t countered in the Chorley number one.
Despite Alex and Blakeman failing with the home side’s first two spot kicks, Urwin saved not only from Jake Moult & Shaun Densmore, but also James Poole. Courtney Meppen-Walter and Louis Almond scored for Chorley, Max Harrop finally managed respond for Alty, but it was too late. Goal hero Josh Wilson stepped up and snuck his penalty under Thompson, sparking jubilant scenes around three quarters of the ground.
Sponsors man-of-the-match: Matt Urwin
HT 0-0 / FT 1-1 / AET 1-1 / Pens 3-1
Goals: Wilson (82′); Hancock (67′)
Chorley: A.Newby (saved), Blakeman (missed), Meppen-Walter (scored), Almond (scored), Wilson (scored)
Altrincham: Moult (saved), Densmore (saved), Poole (saved), Harrop (scored)
Cautions: Challoner (59′), Blakeman (113′)
Dismissals: Hancock (72′)
Referee: Elliott Swallow
Assistants: Lewis Dawson & Daniel Guest
Fourth official: Dean Watson
Weather: Sunny spells
Winning 50/50 ticket: A009401
Next up: The playoff final on Sunday, May 12 at Victory Park (3pm). Spennymoor Town will be the opposition and admission details will be available VERY SOON!